A Guide to Four of the World’s Top Interior Design Districts
From New York to London and Miami to Los Angeles, here’s where to buy cool items to outfit your home
In the décor world, a city’s interior design district is hallowed ground for professionals and amateur design enthusiasts alike. Furniture, fabrics, lighting—all the decorative elements collide in this one area tailor-made for shopping and inspiration gathering.
Whether you’re redecorating your home, looking for a piece or two, or simply collecting ideas, we chatted with designers who frequent four of the hottest design districts for their expert tips and takes on the areas.
Anchored by the Interior Design Building located on 61st Street and Second Avenue on the cusp of Manhattan’s Midtown business district and the posh Upper East Side neighborhood, the area is ripe with design shops and showrooms. The building itself is home to seven floors of antiques, art galleries, furniture and lighting stores from celebrated designers, including Bunny Williams and John Rosselli. Nearby, on Third Avenue between 58th and 59th streets situated diagonally across from Bloomingdale’s, is the Decoration & Design Building, which plays home to over 130 design showrooms open exclusively to the trade.
“The neighborhood is an invaluable resource to my interior design work,” said Phillip Thomas, founder and principal of Phillip Thomas Inc. in New York City. “You can find anything and everything for creating a beautiful home. There are shops such as John Salibello that offer dramatic, statement pieces for the home and CB2, which has interesting contemporary furnishings at accessible prices.”
“I love that there are so many shops and galleries in just a few blocks of each other and all so close to the D&D and other major design buildings,” said Jersey City-based designer Christopher Knight. Some of Mr. Knight’s favorite shops include:
“Liz has an amazing eye and beautifully curated pieces from the 1930s through the '70s, from William Haines to Gabriella Crespi and Line Vautrin. My top pick right now is a rare wood-and-leather cantilevered chair by Samuel Marx,” he said.
“Great Italian designer lighting is quite the specialty here, and I'm taken by the chandelier by Arredoluce and hammered brass sconces,” Mr. Knight said.
“After more than 25 years of first shopping at Niall Smith, I still love his trove of fine 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century pieces. Neoclassical is always in style. The specimen marble top from the '50s is quite fine and unusual,” Mr. Knight said.
The Chelsea Design Quarter is situated in the areas of Kings Road, Fulham Road, Lots Road and Imperial Wharf. Here, classic, vintage, and contemporary design brands converge. A large number of established interior design practices are located in this hub, making the area a creative quarter for many design events, including the London Design Festival. It’s also home to The Design Centre, a massive 155,000-square-foot building that plays home to 120 showrooms and over 600 of the most prestigious luxury interior design brands of fabrics, wallcoverings, furniture, lighting, kitchen, bathrooms, outdoor living, hardware, tiles, and carpets under one roof—the largest of it’s kind in Europe.
"The Chelsea and Fulham areas have always been hot spots specifically for the interior design industry due to the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, which is located at the end of Lots Road, which is in itself very famous for its eclectic auction house,” said Helena Lowry, director of Taylor Howes design studio in London.
“Design Centre, Chelsea Harbor, or as I like to call it ‘the shopping center/ one-stop shop’ for all your interior design needs,” said Des Ademaj, creative director of Fenton Whelan Studio design and development firm in London. “It’s a very popular destination for designers looking to quickly source materials/ specifications. It offers a wide variety of different brands and products from luxury wall coverings to sanitary wares and ironmongery/ hard finishes, and lighting, to mention just a few.”
This interior design paradise, however, has overflowed in the last two decades or so, with Fulham Road and New Kings Road both a stone’s throw from the Harbour, and featuring more and more exquisite showrooms, Ms. Lowry said. “The range and quantity of shops and showrooms in this small area offers such a diverse and eclectic variety of product that it is really very difficult not to be impressed, surprised, and wowed at every visit.”
The two design experts’ favorite shops include:
“Birgit Israel showcases an amazingly eclectic range of furnishings and accessories, both bespoke and one-off collectors pieces,” Ms. Lowry said. “Their signature collection provides some real feature deco pieces using mirror and brass inlays as well as a cream parchment range which is both classic and contemporary. They are a great source of inspiration with their unique finishes, which never fail to add a sense of drama to any interior.”
Rubelli Donghia Group
“They carry fabric collections from Dominique Kieffer, Armani Casa, and other fantastic ranges of textiles and wallcoverings, not to mention their iconic furniture and accessories,” Ms. Lowry said. “The Donghia Collection of furniture and lighting features the most elegant in timeless, contemporary design with extraordinary lighting pieces in Murano glass, which incorporate gold- and silver-leaf flecks, all of which are collector’s items of the future”
Colefax & Fowler
Designers of fabrics and wallpapers, Colefax & Fowler are renowned for their classic English style, Mr. Ademaj said. The brand relies on its long historical palette and range of patterns, as well as chintzes, woven fabrics, silks, sheers, trimmings, and wallpapers.
“I like to visit William Yeoward for a more sophisticated, elegant, and highly individual style and variety of home products,” Mr. Ademaj said. Known for its modern British style, originality, and craftsmanship, the brand is a staple for furniture, upholstery, crystal, lighting, fabrics, wall coverings, rugs, and home accessories.
“For more of a vintage flavor you can’t go wrong stopping by at Talisman’s showroom,” Mr. Ademaj said. It’s an emporium replete with furniture, lighting, objects and sculpture from five continents.
More than just a hub for interior design, the Miami Design District is a destination for shopping, culture, arts and food. Located just 2.8 miles from Downtown Miami, some five miles from Miami International Airport, and under seven miles from the heart of South Beach, the district stretches from N.E. 38th Street to N.E. 42th Street and from North Miami Avenue to N.E. Second Avenue.
"The Miami Design District has grown into a cultural hub that includes more than 60 flagship stores by the world’s most significant luxury brands,” said Craig Robins, president and CEO of Dacra, a real estate development company in Miami, “two of the city’s most respected museums—the de la Cruz Collection and the Institute of Contemporary Art ICA Miami—a live musical performance series produced by Emilio Estefan called The Palm Court Performance Series; almost two dozen restaurants by culinary talents from Joël Robuchon to Michael Schwartz; and public art from Zaha Hadid, Marc Newson, John Baldessari, Urs Fischer and others.”
“Our favorite brands, Minotti, Boffi, Brown Jordan and soon, Sub-Zero, are all located in the Design District,” said Jacqueline Gonzalez Touzet principal at Touzet Studio, whose firm designed two new flagship retail showrooms: The Brown Jordan Building and the showroom for Sub-Zero, both gateway buildings to the Design District.
“This makes it really easy for us when we need to shop or when we seek inspiration for a project. We also love the mix of fashion and great dining choices. It’s so much more urban and chic than design centers which are isolated in a mall or dreary warehouse,” she says.
Some of her favorite shops include:
The hand-crafted Italian furniture shop focuses on indoor and outdoor elements. Ms. Touzet visits this store when designing a multipurpose area that incorporates both interior and exterior spaces. The new showroom in the Design District displays home furnishing collections as well as outdoor furniture—all designed by Italian architect Rodolfo Dordoni.
Housing the latest kitchen, bathroom, and accessories, Boffi’s Italian-made designs are of the highest caliber, combining modern production techniques with traditional hand-made craft.
One of the world’s finest makers of innovative outdoor furniture and accessories, Brown Jordan is Ms. Touzet’s go-to for outdoor spaces. Since 1945, the company has been making products for relaxed-meets-luxe outdoor living.
With the Pacific Design Center at its core, the West Hollywood Design District boasts some of the best design shops in Los Angeles with an extensive array of choices. The center alone has over 2,200 product lines of furnishings, fabrics, floor coverings, wallcoverings, lighting, kitchen and bath products, and accessories available for design professionals. Spread throughout Melrose Avenue, Beverly Boulevard, and Robertson Boulevard, the streets are not only lined with over 100 design shops, but it’s also a high-end fashion, dining, and art destination.
“As a New-York-native-turned West-Coaster, I’m not only thrilled that Los Angeles is becoming more and more of a design destination, but that we have the walkable La Cienega Design Quarter at the center of it all, which makes it that much more like home. Nicky Rising is our go-to for funky California-cool textiles, and with the owner’s U.K. background, not surprisingly, they’re the reps for our favorite de Gournay wall coverings, too,” said Christine Markatos Lowe of Christine Markatos Design in Santa Monica, California. ”Another stop on our La Cienega shopping trail is Una Malan, whose discerning taste brings together truly unique and luxurious lines like the bespoke chandeliers by Helene Aumont.”
“Los Angeles is a hotbed of great design shops,” said Birgit Klein of Birgit Klein Interiors in Beverly Hills. “So many people from all over come to L.A. and set up showrooms with their unique viewpoints. It is such an innovative place, and these showrooms help us push our aesthetic even further. ...The beauty of L.A. is there is a showroom for any and every type of project,” Ms. Klein says.
Some of her favorite shops include:
“This eclectic shop in the LCDQ has such well-curated product lines,” Ms. Klein said. “I love going here for Fromental hand-painted and embroidered wallpaper and Coral and Tusk fabrics. The showroom is always full of interesting objects and furniture. I get inspired by simply walking around in it.”
“My go-to for accessories, they carry exquisite marble and suede Michael Verheyden vases and bowls, luxurious cashmere throws, and organic linen pillows that I love pulling for my design projects,” Ms. Klein said. “Everything in Garde is so thoughtful and reminds me of shops in Europe.”
Formations/ Dennis & Leen
“This is the quintessential high-end California showroom.” Ms. Klein said. “Everything in these two showrooms could fit seamlessly in a Montecito estate overlooking the ocean. Their pieces have an artisan, soulful quality that add character to any home and really help tell a story. The furniture can have an antique feeling but somehow still makes a room feel fresh and exciting. They evoke history in a contemporary fashion. And the gardens at Formations are simply stunning.”